San Onofre plant wants June 1 restart

Nuclear plant has been closed since Jan. 2012

SAN ONOFRE - The operator of the troubled San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station wants to put its reactor restart plan into effect on June 1, company officials said Wednesday at a meeting with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staffers.

Southern California Edison representatives said at the meeting in Rockville, Md., that they will make a final determination in about a week on whether to submit a final version of its proposed license amendment, with an eye toward restarting one reactor at 70 percent power on June 1.

Doug Broaddus, the chief of the special project branch that oversees the northern San Diego County power plant for the NRC, responded that such a timeline presented "a challenge."

"I'm not going to make any commitments as to whether we can make that date or not," Broaddus said.

The plant has been shut down since January 2012, when a small, non-injury leak occurred in one of the reactors. The other unit was undergoing maintenance and not operating at the time.

An investigation found that vibration caused premature wear in steam generator tubes. Edison, the plant's majority owner, said the vibration-causing phenomenon known as "fluid elastic instability" does not occur at the power level on which the unit will run.

SCE wants to restart the reactor that was undergoing maintenance, not the one where the leak occurred.

According to Broaddus, the NRC is proceeding down parallel paths with San Onofre.

If the amendments are approved, it only impacts the license, he said. A decision on whether to allow the restart is being handled separately, he said.

The NRC official said the agency will hold a public meeting in May in Southern California before a restart decision is made.

"We will not allow a restart until we're confident it can be operated safely," Broaddus said.

Anti-nuclear activists oppose any restart of the plant, and several made their views known over a special teleconference line set up for the meeting. A few business leaders also called in to support the plant's role in providing
energy to the region, particularly during the summer.

Edison's draft license amendment seeks to change a technical section requiring structural integrity of steam generators from "across the full range of normal operating conditions" to compliance at 70 percent power. It also
includes a promise that power would not exceed that amount, which equates to 3,438 megawatts thermal.

Another license section, which states that the reactors are allowed to operate at 100 percent power, would be changed to 70 percent power, or 2,406.6 megawatts thermal.

SCE wants to operate the reactor at 70 percent for five months, then shut it down so its steam generator tubes can be inspected. The reactor would resume at 70 percent for 18-24 months while officials use the inspection data
to determine a safe long-term operating level.

San Diego Gas & Electric owns 20 percent of the plant and receives one-fifth of the generated electricity.

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